Feeds

Planning to rob a Windows ATM? Ditch the sledgehammer and bring a USB STICK

Infosec bods demonstrate hack again in forlorn hope banks might notice this time

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Cash machines have been emptied using USB sticks in a series of real world attacks that hark back to exploits first demonstrated by security researcher Barnaby Jack three years ago.

Crybercrooks have created a strain of malware that creates a backdoor on compromised ATMs using a bootable USB stick. The crooks cut a hole into the plastic chassis of the ATM in order to access the USB port before patching the system up to avoid their tampering being detected.

Once the USB device was in place, the ATMs could be rebooted and the malware would be automatically installed. The malicious code was used to screw with functions normally restricted to engineering diagnostics.

The thieves then used a 12-digit code to access an alternative interface on compromised ATMs. The masterminds behind the scam, not wanting their street crews to go rogue, have built a challenge-response access control into their malicious software so that low-level fraudsters need to contact more senior members of the gang to get the one-time code necessary to withdraw money from compromised machines. The precaution also prevents rival gangs from looting knocked-up cash machines.

Details of the malware-based attack on an unnamed Brazilian bank's cash dispensers* were presented by two security researchers at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg last month. In response to audience questions, Tillman Werner from ‪security upstart CrowdStrike‬ explained that the malware used in the scam was not designed to intercept credit or debit card data.

Video of the fascinating hour-long talk can be found here. The scenario of the attack recalls the ATM Jackpotting exploit against cash machines, as first demonstrated by famed security researcher Barnaby Jack at Black Hat USA 2010.

Werner and his research partner said they were explaining details of the relatively trivial attack against ATMs running versions of Windows for embedded devices in order to encourage vendors and banks to introduce basic security safeguards. Disabling the "boot from USB" functionality on ATMs alone would be enough to frustrate this particular scam.

Cash machine thefts based on the technique surfaced last year and have remained isolated, at least for now. Werner's research is largely based on the analysis of malware found on a USB stick confiscated from a suspected fraudster.

Gunter Ollmann, CTO of computer security services firm IOActive, said in a article for Dark Reading that the ability to write malicious code for ATMs is far from unknown among the denizens of the digital underground.

"While the attack vector - booting from an infected USB stick - will have many security veterans rolling their eyes in disbelief that the targeted bank hadn't already mitigated the threat," Ollmann writes, "I've heard several people argue that writing code (malicious or otherwise) for ATMs is difficult. Unfortunately, it's simpler than most realise. Anyone with an understanding of CEN/XFS, or the time to peruse the online manuals, will quickly master the fundamentals."

"This USB infector process is the low-hanging fruit for criminals targeting ATM machines. Banks that haven't already mitigated the attack vector are, for lack of a better word, negligent. There can be no excuses for not disabling the 'boot from USB' functionality, especially now with the public disclosure of criminal abuse," he adds. ®

Bootnote

* Not stated during the demo but a Portuguese menu plus R$ (Reals) as the currency unit leaves little doubt that the scam hit banks in Brazil.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.